Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 162 (7/15) -- Bookhunter by Jason Shiga

How much did I like Jason Shiga's Meanwhile (Book-A-Day # 154, for those of you who have forgotten)?

So much that the next time I was in a comics shop, I found and snagged this book, which I'd vaguely been looking for over the past few years. (It was published in 2007, by Spark Plug Comic Books, and I'm amazed that a random comics store in North Jersey had it three years later.)

Bookhunter is a story torn from the files of the most hard-bitten, devoted, and resourceful of all police forces -- the Oakland, California Library Police, in 1973. Special Agent Bay leads a team of experts to crack the case of a stolen book -- a Caxton Bible that once belonged to John Quincy Adams and is now on loan from the Library of Congress, but has somehow been replaced with a forgery. The Caxton was kept at night in a locked safe inside a locked office in the locked library -- and the display case when it resides by day would be even more difficult to break into.

But stolen it was, and now Bay and his experts must track down the few clues they have -- the bookbinder who created the fake, a forged library card, and hacked patron records. Using their fabulously high-tech equipment -- well, high-tech for 1973, which is the point -- they find the culprit, though not before engaging in the usual action-movie chase scenes through the library and across rooftops.

Bookhunter is sneakily funny in the way it takes standard thriller tropes and straight-facedly applies them to '70s library science, but it also plays completely fair; Shiga isn't winking at his readers, he's trying to show that stolen bibles and 75-baud modems and microfiche and kettle stitches can be just as exciting as Glocks and nuclear devices and flying cars. (He also was inspired -- very loosely so, of course -- by actual cases of book theft.) It's all presented in Shiga's simplified, Simpsons-esque drawing style, in a muddy palette of grayish browns and beiges.

Bookhunter will be a hoot to anyone who loves books, and likely a favorite of anyone who's ever worked in a library and dreamed of being able to just bust a cap on those guys who try to sneak books out under their coats.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: ShellShag - Resiliant Bastard
via FoxyTunes

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for reviewing this and Meanwhile. I was able to pick up Meanwhile at my local bookpusher, and Bookhunter is available on Shiga's webpage.


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